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Taking care of mama!

A recent study out of the University of Madison-Wisconsin that mothers of very low birth weight babies also suffer adverse physical health in following years.

The study reports:

• Mothers of very low birth-weight children had worse physical health than mothers of normal birth-weight children, partially because of the increased stress experienced by mothers of children born very low birth weight.

• Among mothers of very low birth-weight children, the higher the number of weeks the baby spent in a NICU, the worse the mother’s physical health when the child was age 5. This relationship was independent of whether the mother herself had health problems during pregnancy.

• The mothers of very low birth-weight children who had behavioral problems at age 2 had worse mental health years later. This appears to be partially due to greater levels of stress experienced by mothers of children with behavior problems.

This proves to be a good reminder for mothers to be sure to take care of yourself as well and for families and communities around those children not to forget these families in the months and years that follow a premature birth.

How can you help? Something as simple as an hour or two a week or month, watching the child so the mother can get a little time away. Or, perhaps offering a gift certificate for a massage, or theater tickets, maybe something as simple as sharing fresh veggies from your garden.

Mothers of preemies, often feel a sense of guilt or failure in being able to carry a baby to term. Working through those issues in the midst of caring for a special needs child can be very difficult. Patience and sensitivity during those first few days and weeks is critical.

A story I have often thought of likens having a special needs child to planning a trip to Italy only to land in Holland, without being able to change your destination. There will be a certain amount of grief for what you thought life with your new child would be like, what they might accomplish, who they might become. In some cases our preemies excel beyond our expectations and that grief might prove to be unwarranted, however, it is hard to not grieve the loss of what might have been. It might just take some time to appreciate the beauty of Holland.